Cats are so smart. . . Mini Scaredy does this thing where she waits for me just about every night. She hides in the bushes a hundred yards down the road from the trail to my campsite — sometimes for hours. And when I show up she jumps out of the bushes to greet me, and then walks alongside me as I head up the road. It’s pretty cute. My own personal greeting committee.
The problem is: I could tell she really didn’t understand the concept of roads and cars. She’s spent her whole life living in the woods after all. And I was afraid she was gonna get hit by a car. She came real close one time. She was standing in the middle of the street and a car came right at her and she froze up — the old “deer-in-the-headlights” thing. The car had to slam on the breaks to keep from hitting her.
So now I make a point, whenever I’m crossing the street I’ll suddenly run as fast as I can until I get to the other side. Mini Scaredy watches me doing this. And now she does the same thing. She sprints as fast as she can until she gets to the other side of the road.
I don’t know if it’s because of all the rain we got this month, or because I accidentally beaned her with a stick the other day, or what. But Mini Scaredy was definitely in an ill-humored mood this morning….. Moo Cat tried to sneak into my campsite to get some breakfast — something Mini Scaredy usually let’s slide. But not this morning. Scaredy immediately went after Moo. To escape Scaredy’s wrath, Moo ran around to the back of my campsite and hid behind my backpack, cowering in fear. While Scaredy stood there about ten feet away, tensed up and ready to pounce on Moo as soon as she made her move.
Moo sat there cowering behind my pack for about 30 seconds, wide-eyed, and assessing her options. Which were severely limited at this point. She’s got her back to the wall, and somehow has to get around Scaredy if she wants to get to safety.
Suddenly Moo makes her move and sprints passed Scaredy. Scaredy turns and chases after her in full sprint. Moo manages to get about 20 yards down the trail when Scaredy catches up to her. Scaredy dives at Moo with her two front legs fully extended and spears Moo in the side with both fists. A very impressive and athletic move by Scaredy — reminded me of one of those nature films where a lion in full sprint lunges at an elk and takes it down. Moo is is knocked sideways by the blow. But she quickly scrambles and regains her balance and runs down the trail with her tail between her legs.
Scaredy saunters back to my campsite with a smug look on her face, like: “I ain’t in the mood to take any shit this morning.” Ha ha.
I fix a plate of food for Moo Cat and walk down the trail to deliver her breakfast in a neutral zone. Moo Cat doesn’t seem hurt by the exchange. Just a little humiliated. Her thick winter coat probably prevented Scaredy’s claws from penetrating to the flesh.
I guess every now and then Mini Scaredy just feels the need to re-establish the pecking order.
Mini Scaredy had been missing for nearly two days. I had accidentally hit her with this big stick, and she went running down the hill as fast as she could and didn’t look back. I was actually trying to hit this skunk who had just sprayed my campsite, but, as usual, I missed. And Mini Scaredy got caught in the cross-fire. Hit her right in the bridge of the nose (a direct hit).
I was worried sick about it. Tossed and turned in my sleeping bag all night long hoping that she’d come back. But she never did.
Finally, Mini Scaredy showed up a day later in the middle of the night. She approached me cautiously, and then stood there looking at me like: “You hit me with a big stick, asshole.” I tried to explain to her that it was an accident. But I suspect cats lack the deductive reasoning to grasp that concept.
I fixed her a big late-night dinner. And then went back to sleep. The next morning she was all purrs. She even brought me a dead mouse as a peace offering. All is forgiven. The End.
Lately Moo Cat has been showing up at my campsite in the middle of the night. She’ll wake me up by nudging against my head and meowing over and over. “Its me, Moo Cat, and I’m hungry!!”
I’ll grope around in the darkness for a can of cat food. Moo Cat is so excited she’s jumping all over me and purring loudly. Finally, in my half-awake stupor, I’ll figure out how to dump the cat food into the dish. Moo Cat pounces on it and eats greedily. She hasn’t had any food in several days so she’s HUNGRY.
When she’s done eating she climbs on top of my chest and I pet her for awhile. We’ve known each other for 10 years so we have some deep history between us. Then I’ll roll over and go to sleep. And Moo Cat will fall asleep on top of me.
This morning I did this ritual I’ve done many times over the years. Cleaning up somebody’s abandoned campsite in the Berkeley hills.
This one was a mysterious one. Last year these guys hauled up enough camping gear to last for years. Everything but the proverbial kitchen sink (actually they DID have this portable wash tub). But then they were almost NEVER there. I only talked to them once, briefly, the whole time. It seemed bizarre that they would set up this elaborate camping set-up and then rarely use it (I speculated they might have been using it for some kind of marijuana processing operation or something more shady).
Anyways I figured I better take care of it today before the rains start coming in. Because it’s a real mess to try and clean up a muddy, wet, mildewy pile of crap.
I don’t know if you can tell from the photo but the terrain is pretty treacherous. It’s very steep. One mis-step and you’ll fall 30, 40 yards. And you won’t STOP falling until you hit the dry creek below. They had leveled just enough land for a two-man tent and that was about it.
It took me two hours to pack up all the crap (the photo only shows part of the mess). And then the real pain in the ass — hauling it all down the road to several garbage cans. By the time I was done I was soaked with sweat and cursing the gods. It’s a chore. But it’s made tolerable by the wonderful realization that these bums would never be gracing my neck of the woods ever again. And amen to that.
All the feral cats at my campsite over the years have been either black, white, or gray. With the exception of Tuffy, the one brown cat. Tuffy was from Moo Cat’s one-and-only litter. So I guess Moo Cat was dating outside of her tribe. . . A homeless friend of mine who camps on the other side of the Berkeley hills from me ended up adopting Tuffy. Where she lived happily for many years. Until my friend had to leave town for 6 months. Tuffy immediately marched back down to my campsite where I was laying in my sleeping bag, and climbed right on top of my chest. Instantly claiming the center of my campsite as her domain. Where she remained the dominant cat of the tribe (much to Moo Cat’s chagrin). Until my friend returned to his campsite. And Tuffy returned to her rightful owner where she happily lived out her remaining days.
In honor of NATIONAL FERAL CAT DAY (October 16) I thought I’d look back at some of my favorite feral cats, past and present, over the last 10 years.
Blondie was one of the first feral cats I hooked up with. She was already living in the bushes in the woods with two other kittens from that litter when I first showed up in 2007 (Mom had been hit by a car, so the kittens had been abandoned). Blondie was very regal and dainty. Very much the queen. She lived to be almost 10, and I never touched her or petted her once in all those years. Except for one time. I was lying on my back in my sleeping bag and out of the blue Blondie jumped up and laid down on my legs. She laid there for about 5 minutes. Like she was thinking “I ALWAYS wanted to try this.” Then jumped off and resumed her usual position sitting about 3 feet away along side me.
Moo Cat was from Blondie’s first litter in 2008. High-strung, excitable, over-emotional, Moo Cat is the drama queen of the scene. And she’s always picking fights and stirring up trouble. But extremely affectionate. Hates all the other cats and fervently wishes it was just me and her. Often when I’m petting her she’ll get so excited she’ll slash at me with her claws. Girl can’t help it. 10 years old and going strong Moo Cat is the oldest of the tribe. All the feral cats are special to me. But I have a special bond with Moo Cat.
Scamp is Moo Cat’s sister from the same litter. While they look alike as tuxedo cats, their personalities are polar opposites. Whereas Moo Cat is neurotic, anxious, and crazed, Scamp is always calm and self-satisfied with a master-of-reality expression on her face. A true cosmic cat. Scamp was adopted by a homeless friend of mine who lives on the other side of the hill from me, where she lives happily to this day.
Mick and Keef were from Blondie’s second and final litter (she became infertile after that). They were a matching set who looked alike and acted alike and went everywhere together. With Keef — naturally — always one step slightly in the lead. When I left town for a year in 2013 they both disappeared from my campsite. But years later Keef would turn up several miles down the road, living happily with another homeless camper.
Tuffy was from Moo Cat’s one-and-only litter before I had her fixed. And, like Moo Cat, she was a character. Unusually brown-colored and especially beautiful, she also ended up adopted by another homeless camper. When he left town for 6 months, Tuffy immediately marched back down to my campsite and sat down on my chest, claiming the center of my campsite as hers and declaring herself the new dominant cat of the tribe (much to Moo Cat’s righteous indignation). Eventually Tuffy returned to her owner (much to Moo Cat’s relief) until she disappeared mysteriously last year.
After I got all the feral cats at my campsite fixed in 2013, I figured that would be the end of that and Blondie’s lineage would eventually come to a close. But then one day this battered old warhorse of a feral tom, Owl, showed up at my campsite, attracted to my cat food dish. And decided to stick around. Next thing I knew Owl had hooked up with this other newcomer to the scene, this saucy wench Feral Tammy. And they started popping out feral kittens left and right. The remaining cats at my campsite would all spring from Owl’s lineage (with Moo Cat the only holdover from Blondie’s lineage). Completely feral, I never touched him in all the years. And if I made the slightest move towards him he’d immediate step backwards. But eventually he came to trust me. And would sit contentedly near by me. A survivor of many long hard winters fending for himself, Owl passed away quietly a few years ago. But left a brood of cats for me to remember him by.
Feral Tammy was another one of the totally feral cats. She was already several years old before she showed up at my campsite and her feral instincts were already fully ingrained. She usually watched me warily and kept a respectful distance. But now and again she would make herself at home on my blankets. Here she is with one of her look-alike kittens, Mini Moo, who sadly didn’t make it through the winter.
Scaredy Cat was from Feral Tammy’s first litter in 2014 (along with sister Fatty and brother Crier). Scaredy Cat immediately established herself as the alpha cat at my campsite. The most intelligent of the cats with the largest vocabulary (a remarkable array of different-sounding meows) Scaredy Cat was a natural leader who the other cats naturally gravitated towards. With the exception of Moo Cat who picked a fight with her in a misguided attempt to impose his dominance, and ended up getting run out of my campsite. From that point on it would be the Scaredy lineage at my campsite (seen here with her first kitten Mini Scaredy).
Fatty the black cat (sister of Scaredy Cat) is the softest and most gentle and least feral-like of all the cats. Fragile and dainty, she’s the most human-like of the cats. And often gives me this soulful look, like: “If only I could talk the things I could tell you.” She got run out of my campsite by the more aggressive Mini Scaredy. But at 4 years old is alive and well and living on the fringes of my campsite, usually waiting patiently every morning 30 yards down the trail, waiting for me to bring her her breakfast.
Mini Scaredy (along with her brother Mini Owl) was from Scaredy Cat’s first litter two years ago. Mini Scaredy has become incredibly attached to me. She waits for me to show up every night, hiding in the bushes two blocks down the road from the trail to my campsite. Then she happily trots along side me as I make my way up to my campsite. And as soon as I lay down my cardboard matting she rolls over on her back and looks up at me like “You MUST pet me now!!” Ha ha. Sleeps with me all night long. Then hangs out with me all morning right up until I finally pack up and leave. And she’s the most generous of the feral cats, regularly gifting me with a dead mouse. Mini Scaredy.
Mini Owl (seen here with sister Mini Scaredy) was one of the most lovable and happy and goofy of the cats. Loved to romp around and play all day long. Unlike a lot of feral cats (who you have to gradually win there trust) Mini Owl immediately attached himself to me from the first time he met me as a 2 month kitten. Mini Owl disappeared at 9 months and I missed the little guy for a long time.
Thurston Owl the Third was from Scaredy Cat’s second litter (only 4 months after her first litter — she could really pop ’em out!). He was a dead-ringer for Mini Owl in both looks and personality — fun-loving and playful. Almost as if he was the reincarnation of Mini Owl. And like Mini Owl, he too disappeared from my campsite at 9 months.
And last but not least, the latest addition to the tribe: Micro Scaredy (sister of Thurston Owl) was very distrustful and wary of me right up until around 7 months when she finally began to accept me. Aggressive and assertive she wakes me up every morning at 5 AM and won’t stop pestering me and haranguing me until I fix her her breakfast. Purring loudly the whole time she’s abusing me. Ha ha. She’s a hellion. She’s the third in the lineage of Scaredy cats.